More Mystic Seaport
Mystic, CT - Events of Thursday, September 19, 2013
As we said in our last post, Mystic Seaport has about 60 historic buildings that have been relocated to Mystic Seaport and restored. Some of those buildings represent maritime-related trades and some are homes and shops. There are also a few buildings that are recreations and a few modern buildings where some of the museum's many collections are displayed.
The maritime buildings include a shipsmith that was similar to a blacksmith except he made metal items for ships; a nautical instrument shop that sold sextants, compasses and chronometers for navigation; a hoop shop that made wooden hoops to which the sails were attached to enable them to slide up and down the masts; a sail loft; a rigging loft; a cooper and more. Naturally, most of the maritime buildings are located near the waterfront.
One of the first waterfront buildings we came to was the Thomas Oyster House built in 1874 in New Haven, CT. It was used for sorting, grading and shucking oysters.
The John Gardner Boat Shop builds replicas of small, wooden watercraft. It is named for John Gardner, who was renowned for reviving interest in traditional wooden boats. The shop not only builds and repairs small, wooden boats, but it conducts research into boat building techniques and holds periodic workshops on boat building.
The ship carvers shop is where figureheads, name boards, stern boards and other wood carvings would have been done. In the second half of the 1800s, there were 6 ship builders in Mystic and one carving shop did the carvings for most of them. The shop also did carvings for homes, store signs and things such as cigar store Indians.
The young man who was the docent for the shop gave us some insight into the reason we have seen so many ornate, carved store signs with gold leaf lettering during our travels in New England. Those ornate signs stem from the tradition of carved name boards and stern boards for ships. Also, the use of gold leaf, while expensive, was often used on ships because it lasted much longer than paint in the salt spray ships are subject to.
Speaking of figureheads, Mystic Seaport has an extensive collection of figureheads and billetheads. A billethead is a scroll-type carving used in place of a figurehead. Billetheads were frequently used by Quaker ship owners because the billethead is less ornate and less ostentatious.
Mystic Seaport also has a collection of some very nice scrimshaw. The collection isn't as big as that of the New Bedford Whaling Museum, but the pieces are every bit as elaborate and artistically done as the ones at New Bedford. The detail of the scrimshaw is even more remarkable when you realize the sailors worked by candlelight while on a rocking ship. We were particularly impressed by the example below with the very realistic likeness of General Sherman. The image of Sherman is done on walrus tusk. As whales became more scarce, whaling ships began to hunt walrus for their blubber.
The next example of scrimshaw is on the tooth of a sperm whale, and it's finished in color. Click on the photo to enlarge it to see the detail.
Large sailing ships contained miles and miles of rope in their rigging. The museum has a 250-foot section of the ropewalk of the Portsmouth Cordage Company. The original ropewalk was over 1000 feet long.
In the ropewalk, hemp or manila fiber was tristed into yarn, the yarn was twisted into strands, and three or more strands were twisted into rope. In the photo below, yarn is being fed through holes in a head that is designed to keep the yarn from tangling. The truck in the far background traveled down the length of the ropewalk as it twisted the yarn into a strand.
Behind the ropewalk is a 1966 replica of the Brant Point Light. The original lighthouse was built on Nantucket in 1746 and was the second lighthouse in New England. The first was built in Boston in 1716. The replica of the Brant Point Light is modeled after the replacement light built at Brant Point in 1900.
The village at Mystic Seaport also has several homes. The one shown below is the Buckingham-Hall House. Built by Samuel Buckingham in the 1700s near the mouth of the Connecticuit River in Saybrook, CT, the house was occupied by the William Hall family in the 1830s.
The kitchen of the Buckingham-Hall House is the location of open-hearth cooking demonstrations. The docent had prepared rotisserie-roasted chicken, potato casserole baked in a Dutch oven and steamed kale.
The Mystic Bank was built in 1833. The primarily purpose of the bank for loans and mortgages for businesses such as shipbuilders. The building was dismantled and moved to Mystic Seaport from its original location two miles away in 1951.
The building that houses Stone's Store was originally built as a house, but it was set up as a general store when it was moved to Mystic Seaport.
Shaeffer's Spouter Tavern is a 1956 recreation of an 1800s tavern. It serves lunch daily.
There is also a drug store with an attached doctor's office. Since the whale ships didn't have a doctor on board, treating sailors who became ill or were injured on a voyage usually fell to the ship's captain. He would need to restock the ship's medicine chest when the ship came back to port.
We really enjoyed seeing the maritime crafts and the historic boats at Mystic Seaport. We also appreciated seeing the Charles W. Morgan while it was in the midst of restoration.
We left Mystic Seaport and headed back to the motor home for the evening. We had some informal sightseeing we wanted to do the next day, so stay tuned.